When it comes to the masters of behaviour modification then you need look no further than those that practice it on the coal face day in and day out. Not one at a time in an office, but 30 at a time in a hot classroom, last period on a Friday!
There are so many cliches that spring to mind, all of which are way too naff to add here. Simply, it is okay, in fact essential that teachers back their knowledge and experience and get on with it. This post is prompted by 17 years in a classroom, predominantly having a role with students that are struggling with their behaviour. Policy and procedure can all too quickly shunt young ones along a flow chart of ‘escalation’ as directed by policy and procedure. Take for example, one 13 year old student with challenging behaviour. Firstly the classroom teacher would be faced with challenging behaviours and have tried what they can given the time constraints that come with a whole class to supervise. From here it would then work it’s way up through the leadership / pastoral ladder with increasing strategies and quite often discipline. Then, the big guns are brought in. An Education Psychologist will come in and firstly observe the student. This will come with a hefty wait period and the outcome will be a generic report that you have seen many times before, with simply the name changed at the top. Heck, once I saw one and they had even forgotten to change the name. It is at this point the hopeful school staff will read the report in a desperate search for guidance. What happens is with each point the response will be either ‘I knew that’ and ‘I’ve tried that’.
The school can be left with nothing, the family are left with nothing and what invariably happens is the young one slips further down the slope to the muggy depths of the ‘unfixable’ label. A label unfairly allocated.
This is where I return to the teachers and school backing themselves as the experts they are. You are the ones that day in and day out teach classes in excess of 30 teenagers for 7 straight hours, before heading home to plan for the next 7 days and so on. That is 30 wonderfully unique individuals that love your subject to detest it, that are depressed, anxious and stressed, ADHD, ODD and many other acronyms. To the excitable that have sold their Ritalin to a friend to buy a half litre can of energy drink, thus being left with endless energy and an inability to focus or stop shouting ‘Muppet’ across the class. To see a strong teacher do just this is nothing short of magical and masterful. It is a unique position to have, and not one that has possibly been tried by a very well paid behaviour specialist advisor.
The answer, in my opinion, is to utilise the specialists we have in every school. Not even those with a specialist post graduate certificates in the field. The need is simply the time and space to bounce experiences and ideas amongst these professionals towards informing an outcome that will inevitably be specific and relevant to the students, staff and school community.
As soon as you relinquish responsibility and power of the proposed change you disable and undermine your ability to affect change. Fantastic, if an external specialist comes in and facilitates this but just be mindful of the skills, knowledge and resources you bring.
So, back yourself.